Eat a flavorful high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet to lose fat and improve health markers such as blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar tolerance. A recent study from Sweden showed that if you plan your diet right, you can get lean by eating lots of tasty fat and protein if you limit carbs.
The study used type 2 diabetics and broke them into two diet groups in which the men ate 1,800 calories a day and the women ate 1,600 calories a day. The following macronutrient ratios were tested:
• A high-fat, low-carb diet made up of 50 percent fat, 20 percent carbohydrate, and 30 percent protein. The carbs were restricted to low-glycemic carbs.
• A low-fat diet of 30 percent fat (less than 10 percent saturated fat), 60 percent carb, and 10 percent protein.
Results showed that both groups lost the same amount of weight after 6 months (a little over 4 kg), and the high-fat, low-carb diet produced much better blood sugar tolerance and insulin levels decreased by 30 percent. Blood pressure was lower from the high-fat diet and this group had an impressive improvement in cholesterol with a significant drop in bad LDL cholesterol and higher HDL “good” cholesterol. At the completion of the 2-year study in which they ate at least 20 percent of their calories from saturated fat, their overall cholesterol ratio was even better.
How is it possible that eating so much fat can produce superior cholesterol levels, especially when a large amount of the fat eaten daily was from saturated fat?
In a commentary published in the journal Nutrition and Metabolism it was shown that cholesterol is generally affected in two ways:
1) When we eat high-carb diets with most of those carbs having high-glycemic values. Throw in fats from “isolated” fat vegetable sources such as corn, soybean, canola, and vegetable oil, and you will have high LDL cholesterol, which puts you at risk of atherosclerosis.
Studies show that replacing carbs with fat results in a decrease in circulating triglycerides, which are unhealthy, and increased HDL “good” cholesterol. This is what happened with the high-fat, low-carb diet in the Swedish study.
2) When we eat diets high in naturally occurring saturated fat from meat (such as stearic acid, which is the major saturated fat found in beef, chicken, and pork), LDL cholesterol is not elevated as long as carb intake is low to moderate. Diets higher in processed meat, trans fat, and isolated vegetable fats, especially when there is high-carb intake, do raise LDL cholesterol.
To make a high-fat diet work for you, use the following tips:
• Eat a large portion of your diet from a variety of animal protein sources—20 to 30 percent.
• Restrict carbs to no more than 25 percent of the diet and eat primarily low-glycemic carbs from vegetable and fruit sources. Shoot for under 100 grams of carbs a day.
• Avoid all processed carbs and sugar, and consider eliminating grains to manage blood sugar.
• Completely avoid trans, hydrogenated, and processed fats. Limit isolated vegetable fats such as corn, safflower, sunflower, and soybean oil.
• Eat fat from whole food sources such as organic and wild meats, eggs, nuts, avocados, and coconuts. Whole dairy may be included if you are not allergic and are very insulin sensitive.
Guldbrand, H., Dizar, B., et al. In Type 2 Diabetes, Randomization to Advice to Follow a Low-Carbohydrate Diet Transiently Improves Glycemic Control Compared with advice to Follow a Low-Fat Diet Producing a Similar Weight Loss. Diabetologia. 2012. 55(8), 2118-2127.
Volek, J., Forsythe, C. The Case for Not Restricting Saturated Fat on a Low Carbohydrate diet. Nutrition and Metabolism. 2005. 2(21).